How to keep distributed teams connected and collaborating

The article below is published on Laura Graves personal LinkedIn page.

Tactics and tools that drive remote collaboration

Product teams rely on strategic collocation for key activities, which serves as a foundation for healthy team dynamics and collaboration when working in a distributed model. Since March, teams worldwide were forced to retrofit their working models to include remote solutions. For those in product, pivoting to offer fully remote Lean Requirements workshops and creating new ways to celebrate major milestones became essential.

Leveraging the right tools to keep teams engaged went from a nice to have to a critical need overnight. One tool Devbridge has come to rely on is Miro. Our teams use the collaboration tool to facilitate workshops, drive stakeholder alignment, map out plans, and more. A year later, I’m proud to say that our team is officially deemed Miro experts.

Keeping distributed teams connected

Going beyond the tools, there are a number of insights coming out of the new norms set over the past year. Back in March 2020, I offered up a list of tips for facilitating remote working sessions based on longstanding practices at Devbridge of working with globally distributed teams. Having spent over a year of working in a fully remote setting with a few respites for hybrid (remote + in office) as local conditions allowed, here are my three biggest takeaways.

  1. Time is at a premium. Each team member's situation is different. Many of our colleagues are jumping between their own work from home and supporting e-learning for their kids. Others are back in the office but managing evolving childcare situations. All of us have zoom and screen fatigue. Leveraging tools built for distributed teams ensures that time is being spent on strategic tasks and not on the administrative overhead required for additional coordination.

  2. Keeping the team engaged is critical. The longer we are away from our colleagues, the more strained our relationships become. We're skipping the drive-by conversations that happened in the office because the topics don't seem important enough to schedule a meeting. Newer members of the team (especially those early in their careers) are having a hard time getting up to speed, given fewer opportunities for job shadowing. To encourage innovation, keep momentum, and maintain our sense of community, we have to continue to bring cross-functional teams together in collaborative working sessions.

  3. COVID-19 has rapidly accelerated improvements and the adoption of tools for distributed teams. While video conferencing tools are not new to technology teams, leading platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams have released new features and performance improvements to meet increased demands. Similarly, Miro, (mentioned earlier) has removed barriers to collaboration by providing a digital platform for co-creation and more interactive discussions suitable for ideation sessions previously conducted in-person.

If you’re looking for help running engaging and successful remote workshops, we’re happy to help. You can read about our expertise with remote facilitation here. You can also use our template for Lean Requirements Workshops and Stakeholder Management in Miro to kickstart working sessions with your team.

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